America's political division into 50 states is only hurting its ability to compete in the global economy, writes Parag Khanna at the New York Times. That's because the US, like other nations, is clustering into city-centered economic regions that need social and economic support. "The 50-state model means that federal and state resources are concentrated in a state capital—often a small, isolated city itself—and allocated with little sense of the larger whole," writes Khanna, a senior fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. This holds back bigger cities, he adds, and ensures that smaller US cities will be "cut off from the national agenda, destined to become low-cost immigrant and retirement colonies, or simply to be abandoned."
Khanna wants Congress to look at America as "seven distinct super-regions": the Great Lakes, the Great Northeast, the Southeast Manufacturing Belt, the Gulf Coast, the Great Plains, the Inland West, and the Pacific Coast. Within these are "urban archipelagos" like the "Arizona Sun Corridor" (Phoenix to Tucson), the "Cascadia Belt" (Vancouver to Seattle), and the "megalopolis" from Boston to Washington (where 50 million people make up 20% of the US GDP). Such thinking could lead to smarter placement of roads, rail lines, telecommunications, data centers, and manufacturing plants—like China and Italy are already doing. "More than America’s military grand strategy, such an economic master plan would determine if America remained the world’s leading superpower," writes Khanna. See Khanna's full piece here. (Read more US economy stories.)